You're fooling yourself if you really believe it will "hold it's own" against cars like the Serpent. I have seen these cars blasted to bits by a RRR on a slightly technical track. I agree that they do "hold their own" but that's from a very relative perspective. The thought is: This car only costs so much but is ONLY about 2 seconds a lap slower than the big dolla race bred machinery. I supposed, in a "cost-to-satisfaction" ratio this might make sense ...but in reality, 2 seconds a lap is enough to confidently say "you will be blown away!!".
Personally, I would opt for the HPI RS4 ...if not the Associated. But sadly Associated have followed a "hands-off" school of thought when it comes to the NTC4's design. While Cindi Lauper was tearing up microphones (and ear drums!) around the States the NTC4 was tearing up tracks world-wide ....those days, like Lauper's stardom, are long over
!! At least HPI has just updated the RS4 with stronger parts, better pipe and some other assorted goodies. As for Schumacher; their "stuff-in-the-biggest-engine-you-can-hold-with-one-hand" school of design might work for some, but sucks when you see the relatively ancient looking hardware surrounding the engine.
Whatever you buy ...any of those cars will offer some level of fun. Place the emphasis on parts availability. If all three are equally available in your area and you want a durable car that you can grow with, rather then a museum piece, or a chassis with a motor strapped on, go for the HPI ...you will not regret it